American Optometric Association (AOA) and Armed Forces Optometric Society (AFOS) Respond to Proposed Elimination of Eye Care Services by U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

Media Contact: Deirdre Middleton - 703.837.1347
dmiddleton@aoa.org

May 5, 2017 -- Andrea Thau, OD, president of the American Optometric Association (AOA) issued the following statement in response to a report that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is considering de-prioritizing essential eye care for veterans by completely eliminating the VA Optometry Service. 

"Today's report out of Washington, DC about the possibility of downgrading essential care for veterans is outrageous and unacceptable, and the AOA sincerely hopes that the information within the account is false. America's veterans need and deserve the assurance that their eye health and vision care needs will be met by doctors of optometry through the advanced, high-quality care we provide. In 2017, bias and outdated thinking have no place at the VA or any government agency. The Secretary should know that the solution to his department's problems will not be found in policies that compromise care. On behalf of all of the patients who've bravely served our country, I've asked to meet with Dr. Shulkin to make absolutely certain that this report is false, and to discuss the changes the VA needs to make to fulfill its mission."

In addition, Lindsay Wright, O.D., Executive Director of the Armed Forces Optometric Society (AFOS) expressed her association's concerns. "The Armed Forces Optometric Society is shocked to hear of the alleged suggestion by the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs to eliminate eye care from the VA's healthcare system," said Dr. Wright.

"Eye care is an essential and core component of the integrated health care the VA provides our nation's Veterans. Our VA doctors of optometry see more patients per year than any other health care specialty. Doctors of optometry are literally on the front line of care, often being the first health care professional to identify or detect systemic health issues in veterans. VA doctors of optometry work in concert with the VA's other health care professionals in the management of numerous medical conditions that can affect the eye such as diabetes and hypertension. This interprofessional communication to effectively coordinate care not only ensures that our veterans receive the best possible care, but it also provides an economical and efficient path for veterans to receive their health care. In addition, VA doctors of optometry are the primary providers of visual rehabilitation for veterans who are blind and those that have sustained traumatic brain injury, services uniquely provided by the VA healthcare system.

To eliminate or segregate eye care from the VA would cause a significant degradation of the level of care provided to VA patients and ultimately break the government's longstanding promise to care for our nation's veterans." 

About the AOA: The American Optometric Association, a federation of state, student and armed forces optometric associations, was founded in 1898. Today, the AOA is proud to represent the profession of optometry, America's family eye doctors, who take a leading role in an individual's overall eye and vision care, health and well-being. Doctors of optometry (ODs) are the independent primary health care professionals for the eye and have extensive, ongoing training to examine, diagnose, treat and manage disorders, diseases and injuries that affect the eye and visual system, providing two-thirds of primary eye care in the U.S. For information on a variety of eye health and vision topics, and to find an optometrist near you, visit www.aoa.org.

About AFOS: The purposes of this Society are to advance, improve, and enhance the eye care of designated federal services health care beneficiaries given by optometrists in federal service; to provide a forum for these optometrists; to improve the art and science of the practice of optometry and to elevate the standards of the practice.